Three key elements to look for in the Broncos’ opener at the Giants.
1) Instant urgency
A full list of NFL teams that went winless in September 2019 and ’20: Cincinnati, the New York Jets and the Broncos. Ouch. Even the Bengals had a tie to start 0-2-1 last year. The Broncos, under coach Vic Fangio, have never gotten out of the blocks, starting 0-4 in ’19 (two last-minute blown leads at home) and 0-3 in ’19 (injuries galore). The Weeks 1-3 opponents this year (Giants, Jacksonville and Jets) combined for nine wins in ’20. “Our guys, they know everybody knows what’s happened here the last couple starts,” Fangio said. “I’m sure they’re feeling a little bit of urgency.” That should be reflected from the opening kickoff Sunday. The Broncos should coach with urgency, calling the game aggressively to put the Giants on their heels.
2) Who plays what role?
The intrigue of Week 1 is teams reveal for the first time what they think of their personnel aside from the starting lineup. For the Broncos, there are many questions. Will inside linebacker Justin Strnad have a role on sub-package downs? Will cornerback Pat Surtain II be limited to dime (six defensive back) duties? How much will outside linebacker Von Miller and receiver Courtland Sutton have their playing time managed after missing last year with ankle and ACL injuries, respectively? What will be the snap-count/rushing attempt split between tailbacks Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams? Will inside linebacker Baron Browning and outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper have roles in their NFL debuts? As coaches like to say, “You’ll find out on Sunday.”
3) Giants’ LT struggling
The Giants drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall in 2020 and he started 15 games and played 96% of the offensive snaps (only two holding penalties). But in the preseason finale against New England, Thomas was dusted for two sacks and committed one penalty. Now he gets to face outside linebacker Bradley Chubb if No. 55 is healthy (ankle) and the Broncos continue to employ him over the left tackle. “As an offensive lineman, there (are) always techniques to get better at and when you’re focusing on one thing, there might be something else that you have to work on,” Thomas told reporters on Monday. “Playing in the NFL, guys are going to expose that. They watch film so you have to do your best to have everything taken care of.”
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